Employee Stock Ownership Plans Employee-Owned Businesses By Laura Lee & Frank Stasio • Mar 19, 2015 Mike Kalasnik / Flickr Creative Commons In many workplaces, "the boss" is a board or group of investors. But in a growing number of businesses, employees are taking ownership. Some use an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, and others use a cooperative structure. For companies like Southwest and Publix Super Markets, employee engagement is critical because employees are the bosses. The structure can also offer tax incentives.